Martini Mates Forever

I have written in the past about the Martini Mates but I am just not sure I have written about them on this site. So here’s a short bit of explanation about who we are and a sad bit of news about one of our best friends—a Martini Mate.

Back in 2005 we booked our second Celebrity Cruise on Infinity that would take us on a short repositioning trip from Vancouver, BC to San Francisco, CA. As is our habit, as soon as we booked the cruise, we joined the Cruise Critic roll call (click here if you don’t know what that is) for it. Little did we know how life changing joining that roll call would be. There were about 100 people posting on the roll call but one day (about six months prior to the cruise) we started discussing the Martini Bar on Infinity. Now none of us were big fans of martinis but it was fun to discuss all the different kinds that X serves in its many martini bars throughout their fleet.

During that discussion someone suggested that we (everyone on the roll call) start calling ourselves the Martini Mates. This caught on and pretty soon we were all a bunch of Martini Mates. By the time we all arrived in Vancouver for the cruise, a bunch of us who had done a TON of posting felt like we were good friends. Many of us gathered the night before the cruise for a pre-cruise cocktail party that was organized by Carol Preisman who is the wife of the god of shore excursions Mike. We met in the bar at the Sheraton Wall Center hotel and when I walked into the hotel, Carol came up and I put out my hand to shake hers. She said, “I’m from the South honey. We don’t shake, we hug.” And she did. And I did. And I made a friend who lasted from that day until last night when we lost Carol.

Carol would always say that she wasn’t sure why she and I were friends. Neither was I. We were pretty much the opposite of each other. She was a conservative, reserved Southern Belle of the highest order and I was a liberal, loud, ex-hippie from California. And we became friends. And every time we saw each other or she would introduce me to someone, she would say, “Not sure why Jim and I are friends…but we are.”

Of course there were many Martini Mates on that cruise but for some reason, six of us stayed Martini Mates. We still correspond with others from that 2005 cruise. We have sailed with some of those people as well. Over the years we have added more folks to the Martini Mates but the six of us were the core—Bob, Jude, Mike, Carol, Kathleen and me.

Those four people have been a huge part of our lives since the day we met them. We have sailed with Mike and Carol at least eight times and done a couple of land trips with them as well. They have stayed at our place and we have stayed at theirs. Yes, we were closer to Bob and Jude but that’s just because we were geographically closer since they lived in BC and Mike and Carol lived in Florida but the six of us were still the best of friends. And when we were able to travel to all the parts of the world together, we felt like no time had passed between trips.

When we returned from the original trip in 2005, Carol wanted us all to be able to have a place to keep talking to each other on the original Cruise Critic roll call so she started the Martini Mates “friends of Cruise Critic” board that we still post on to this day. This morning it was filled with love for both Carol and Mike.

I am posting more photos than I usually post because when I went to look for them, I found so many that I loved of us with our Mates all over the world. Bob and Jude never did the really long and adventurous trips—Bob hates to fly. But we still went everywhere together.

This morning after I had found out about Carol passing I took a long walk and was thinking about all the places we had been with Mike and Carol. Besides the initial Martini Mate foray in 2005, we sailed with them to Alaska twice, to SE Asia from Singapore to Hong Kong, through the Panama Canal in 2014, to the Baltic a few years before that, on the eighth voyage of Solstice in the Caribbean and Hawaii.

So that’s kind of a short history of the Martini Mates. The Mates suffered our first huge loss when Jude passed away a few years ago. Today we lost Carol. And she will be missed but I like to think that she is undoubtedly in a heavenly Martini Bar, sipping her chocolate martini with Jude and another of our group, “The Straw.” She and Jude are rolling their eyes as “The Straw” (that’s a whole other story) tells the story of how she became “The Straw” for the 1 millionth time.

We love you Carol and will miss you. I wish I could see you right now to give you that hug because you taught me that “we don’t shake hands, we hug.”

Loss

I fully realize this is supposed to be a travel posting. That I should be writing about travel. But to be honest, life got in the way. There was a great post on why you should use a travel agent I was going to write or a note about why we like to cruise. I had some time, so it would have been a good one.

But about 10:30 this morning Kathleen came down to my office where I was working on some travel stuff and she was crying. She said she had some bad news. She had read on Facebook that one of my oldest friends had passed away on Wednesday. His name was Bob. Now I have had three close male friends in my entire life and for some reason they are all named Bob. Seriously. This Bob used to live here. He worked with the yearbook company that I still work with. I have known him since 1982 when I joined the company. Since our other two Bobs have come into our life, we always refer to this Bob as “Original Bob,” because he was the first Bob in my life.

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That’s “Original Bob” in the middle between me and Phil (who worked with us for a while). We were at Teatro Zinzanni in I want to guess 2003 or 2004.

When Bob and I first met I had a sales territory in Eugene, Oregon and Bob had a sales territory here in Redmond (where we now live) that encompassed most of the Seattle  area. We would see each other twice a year at business meetings where, because my last name started with B and his with C, we almost always wound up rooming with each other. He became my favorite person I worked with because he was so worthy of being a friend. He was the FUNNIEST person I have ever met. His wit was so quick it outpaced mine by a mile. He was smart-funny. He was so many things I wished at the time that I was. Confident. Good looking. Well dressed (wow he was well dressed), a great husband and father and so much more.

After I had spent nine years in Eugene and decided to take a territory here in Washington I found myself living in Leavenworth with most of my territory being north of Seattle. That meant to get to any of my schools, I would need to drive 125 miles each way over a mountain pass. And since I had about 30 schools over here, I would have make that commute 8-10 days every month. Bob and his incredible wife Cindy and their two boys Chris and Drew quickly offered me their guest room (actually their couch) and for the next six or seven years I spent 6-8 nights a month at their place. Those nights were amazing. Spending time with the Coutures was always fun and Bob would teach me things about yearbooks and selling yearbooks that no one else ever had. He was a true mentor. During that time, they would come and see us in Leavenworth as well but business-wise Bob and I talked about five times a week even after I stopped that commute.

A few years later, Bob became my boss. He took the position as regional manager for the Northwest and did absolutely terrible at it. Not because he wasn’t a great manager of people (because he was) but because he HATED the politics of it. He didn’t last long doing the job (I want to say less than a year) and when he went out (after 20+years with the company) he did it the right way. He took all his good company friends out (using the company credit card) while we were in San Diego for a meeting and we had the party of a lifetime. And then the next day, in front of an open meeting of the entire region, he just quit. And really lambasted the entire culture of the company (which needed it when he did). It was awesome. Pure Bob.

I need to mention that before he left that job he and Cindy helped me get through my divorce. Bob was there to talk whenever I needed to talk. He was my friend and he proved it during that time. They were the first of my friends that Kathleen ever met. They loved her from the get-go and that really confirmed how I felt. I remember us going out to brunch with them the first time I came over to see her. It was the first of many outings we would take together. Most memorable were a particular night at Desert Fire here in Redmond, seeing Teatro Zinzanni for the first time and the aforementioned dinner in San Diego. Bob and Cindy were one of only six people from the company at our wedding. And sadly, we lost another of the six less than two months ago.

After he left the yearbook company, Bob joined and ran a financial news magazine about the mortgage industry for a few years. As I mentioned, he was a GREAT manager and he did great at this as well. He eventually decided to take the magazine digital and asked me to be the one to do that with him. I was both honored and thrilled to be working alongside him again. We would probably still be doing this but corporate politics did him in again. He just didn’t want to be bothered with the crap and I don’t blame him one bit.

Soon after he and Cindy moved to Arizona, where he went back to his original job (my original job too) of teaching school. He taught drama and…what else…yearbook. From that point on though, other than them coming up here or us going down there (which happened about every other year), it was Christmas cards and tweets and Facebook posts. But I always knew I had a friend if I needed one.

While I know that I haven’t seen Bob since last Christmas (2017), we had plans to see him and Cindy this March at their place. And it’s just not fair that I won’t get to see him again. Getting old sucks. Not from the aches and pains and the memory loss but from the friends you love that you lose. I will miss you Bob.